3 Steps for Coaching Emotion with Wedding Clients

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3 Steps for Coaching Emotion with Wedding Clients with Mariea Rummel

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Putting emotion into your images can set your work apart. There is something magical about an image that tells a story. Whether that story is about passion or laughter, people are drawn to these images. It’s so simple, yet very few photographers can tap into this with clients.

My journey to photographing emotional images started six years ago when I was tired of using the same poses with my wedding clients over and over. “Smile. Now don’t. Pretend you’re dancing.” Ugh. The feeling of being stuck and uninspired spurred me to change. I knew I needed to alter my photography style, but how?

It was when I dug deep that it finally hit me. I didn’t need to “pose” my clients. I just needed to help them tell their love story.

And so I started building a style of photography that would drive my whole brand. Here are the steps I took to create emotional photos and build trust with clients so they could relax and become vulnerable in front of the camera.

Step 1: Build Your Relationship

Trust and time are the keys to getting your clients to open up. Meet with them face to face when booking them. If they are out of town, use FaceTime or Skype. Let them talk. Get them to tell you their love story.

After booking, I send out a small questionnaire titled “Getting to Know You.” These few questions help me understand their personalities. I refer back to them right before their engagement session or wedding.

  1. How did you meet? I want details.
  2. What was the first thing you thought of when you saw each other?
  3. What do you love about your future bride/groom?
  4. Tell me about the proposal. I want details.
  5. What does a perfect day together look like?
  6. What are your hobbies? What do you like to do together?
  7. Who’s the extravert? Who’s the introvert?
  8. What are you both looking forward to the most during your wedding?

If your clients feel you are truly invested in and care about their relationship, they will feel more comfortable with you. Adding an engagement session into their collection is a great way to build a stronger bond before the wedding. They see how you work behind the camera, and you see how they are in front of it. On the wedding day, they are relaxed because they know what to expect.

Step 2: Coach Your Clients

Having photos taken, for the average person, is a little nerve-wracking. Our clients aren’t all models. If we threw them in front of the camera and said, “Do something,” they would freeze up. They want to know that you have this under control. Before most of my engagement sessions, I take them out for happy hour. We chat and laugh, and I get them to relax before their sitting. I’m watching their personalities a bit more so I can plan the best approach for the shoot and sales. I reassure them that I will help every step of the way and that we are going to have an awesome time. I give them a funny example of my coaching method so they completely understand.

Be confident. Be witty. But remember that what works for one couple might not work for another. I don’t tell a more reserved couple to yell out their favorite cuss word. Evaluate your coaching topics for each couple.

When talking to your couple during a shoot, keep it simple. Let them relax between coaching topics. Don’t throw the whole book at them. You’ll overwhelm that poor couple and yourself. For your own sanity, make it a goal to try one new coaching topic every few clients.

We have a million things going on in our heads during a shoot. “Where’s the sun? F-stop, ISO, WB…is that dirt on her dress? Where did this wind come from?” Stop. Breathe. Don’t get ahead of yourself. Focus. You got this. Now you are ready to deliver.

Just like an actor, you are setting the stage, and delivery is everything. When you are coaching, take the camera away from your face. No one can hear you behind the camera, and your voice and facial expressions set the mood. I walk right up to my clients, inches from their faces, and whisper, “Luke, kiss Sarah like it’s the last kiss you will ever give her.” The whisper and the closeness is a perfect delivery. If I stood 15 feet away and loudly said the same thing, the outcome would be far less emotional. You want to take the shots right after you offer suggestions. Those reactions contain the true emotion you are looking for.

Here are a few of my coaching topics.

Love coaching

  • Without saying a word, show how much you love each other.
  • Say what you love about each other.
  • Close your eyes. Think about what a blessing you are to each other.
  • Close your eyes and touch foreheads. Breathe in and out together, and think about when you knew you were in love.
  • Cuddle tight like you’re trying to stay warm. Close your eyes and, at the count of three, slowly open your eyes and look at me. (This is three reactions in one.)
  • Tell each other three things you are most thankful for.
  • Cuddle with just your faces.
  • Wrap your arms around your future spouse. Without words, show that you are here to always take care of this person.

Laughter coaching

  • Say the first thing that comes to mind when I say: honeymoon, sexy time (in your best Borat voice), bridezilla, your best man.
  • Whisper something sexy in the other’s ear.
  • Go in for a kiss but don’t let the other kiss you.
  • Tickle your partner’s neck with just your lips.
  • At the same time, yell out the color the other was wearing on your first date.
  • Who’s the saver? Who’s the spender?
  • At the count of three, yell out your partner’s favorite cuss word.

Yes, you will act like a fool and you might feel a little out of your comfort zone. But your images will be amazing, and that’s all that matters. My clients always say their time with me was a blast.

This form of coaching isn’t only for your couples. You can tweak these suggestions for the bridal party and other photo opps.

Step 3: Empower Your Clients

Throughout the engagement session and wedding day, remember to praise your clients. Sometimes we are too deep in our own thoughts that we forget to empower the people we are photographing. Tell them often that they are doing a wonderful job. Whenever they might feel awkward, give them praise. Don’t be afraid to show them the back of the camera. Instant visual gratification is a confidence booster.

Don’t overwhelm yourself trying to memorize all of these coaching suggestions. Pick one or two and perfect them. Use them to break the ice or when you feel stuck. Challenge yourself to think outside the box and create your own suggestions.

 

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the May issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.